Have you ever realized, after the fact, that you had been given a test, and you failed it?
I have. I failed one on Sunday.
With all my posting on the psalms, with all my love of God's Word, I expect more of myself than what I am about to reveal in the following incident. But in the interests of keeping it real, I thought perhaps I should tell my story.
Here it is:
On Sunday, I went to church and worshiped God with all my heart and soul.
I watched a dear friend be baptized, and watched her dear children and husband standing there with tears rolling down their faces. It was an incredible moment.
I drove off back to the Boonies, and thought on the way home I would stop and pick up a few provisions. It was just me and my dear daughter, because the Big Bison and our dear son were still at church, since the BB was playing guitar for the second service. We stopped at Costco, and on the way out, the Boonie Baby asked if she might buy a soft drink. I talked to her about saving her money, and how it's good to learn to say no to yourself and deny yourself a small pleasure for a little bit, if it will help you save your money and put it toward something you really want. The Boonie Baby, agreed she didn't really need a soda, and was OK with saving her money.
I'm not a tightwad, but I do try to be really careful with money, especially since I am not bringing in any, and we rely solely on the money that God sends through the work He sends dh's way. So I view a part of my role as dh's helpmeet is to be careful with that money. We try to give generously, at all times, because it is NOT our money.
I was in the parking lot, loading our stuff in the car, and a pickup truck slowed and came to a stop beside me. I knew within two seconds or less that the woman was going to hit me up for money. Knew it.
She said, "'Scuse me, my name's Donna, and I've really gotten myself into a mess....blah, blah, blah."
And I'm thinking, (and this is just the truth) "Carp! Why did I have to be out here right now? Why did she hit on me?" Because I had noticed the truck cruising up and down the parking lot. She was shaking and looked like she had had a rough night the night before.
I interrupted her sad story (she was starting to get all emotional) and I said, "Look, I'm not going to give you any money, but I will buy you some food if you need some food." And she continues on with, "I'm not from here, I'm from ____ county, you can check my tag if you don't believe me, and my tank is below empty, you can look and see, I'll show you some ID."
And I'm thinking, "For crying out loud, woman, I don't wanna see your stupid ID." But I said, "Look, if you'll just settle down, I will see how much money I have, and I will put some gas in your car." And she's getting more and more worked up with her sad tale, and I said, "Look, I really don't want the drama, and if you don't settle down, I'm not going to give you the money I have."
Yes, I said that. I can't believe I said that, but, God help me, I did. I was angry.
I really felt like she was totally lying to me and trying to manipulate me to get what she wanted out of me from the get-go. And it made me angry that she was taking my dh's hard earned money.
I told her I would follow her to the nearest gas station, and buy her some gas, and I did. I went inside and paid the attendant with the cash I had.
And then I went back outside to her.
I said, "Look. Someday it could be me who is desperate for money for a tank of gas. I realize that. And I bought this gas for you because of all God has done for me, and because He tells me to give. But look at how ugly I've acted to you. Shame on me for acting this way."
And then she said, "Well, I'm not perfect, either. I've made a lot of mistakes. I just feel so stupid having to ask you".
(insert me shaking my head in shame, here)
And then we asked God to bless each other, and parted ways.
But I did all this in front of my daughter, and I told her that I knew I had behaved badly.
I gave. But what an AWFUL, awful attitude. Wallowing in self-condemnation after I got home, I remember thinking, "If God loves a cheerful giver, He must hate my guts."
So much for being salt and light in the world. Right after church.
I was so consumed with guilt over my loss of my temper that I posted about it on the Sonlight Forums, and my friends there offered me a lot of wise words about how I had messed up, yes, but I had realized my sin, repented and confessed it, sought reconciliation with the person I had wronged, and had talked to my daughter about my struggle, too.
They were a whole lot more gracious and eloquent than I am being here. Let me quote one of my encouragers, my friend Chloe:
"Your daughter watched you wrestle with your flesh and overcome and you feel like you're scum?!?!?!? When did we Christians become nonhuman? The point is the wrestling. There is no glory if there is no wrestling just as there is no courage if there is no fear."
I went on a walk with my dear husband that afternoon, and shared my load of guilt with him. After listening very kindly to my self-flagellation, he offered to go down into the woods, and get me a big log so I could beat myself up a little more effectively. (I love this man! Knows me inside out, he does, and loves me anyway.)
So, why am I sharing this with you?
Well, today, as I was finishing up reading the final reading in Beth Moore's book,
"Stepping up: a journey through the Psalms of Ascent" I stumbled upon a portion that was meant for me at this moment, at this point in my processing of the whole situation.
I have been lagging behind a bit in finishing my assignments (our group actually finished the study a couple of weeks ago), but I haven't been stressing much about it, because I always feel that God wastes nothing, even my procrastination. And that the timing of when I was reading WHAT I was reading was in His hands. So, this morning, as I was reading her last chapter, I came upon some passages that applied directly to me.
We were reading Psalm 134, which maybe I'll post more on tomorrow, because it is so good.
Here's the text from the NIV:
Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary
and praise the Lord.
May the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth,
bless you from Zion.
So, I'm reading along on what Beth has to say in this psalm, (which is all great, by the way) and it boils down to that we are to be a blessing to God through our praise, and He in turn will bless us.
And I'm thinking, "Well, yes, He does that. He blessed my socks off at church on Sunday. But aren't we blessed to be a blessing? And here I turned around and just totally disregarded the value of another person who crossed my path on Sunday. Even though she probably WAS lying to me. I looked at her as a problem, and not as a person. I feel like I totally failed the test.
So here's the story that Beth told next, that I feel like might be the reason that I was delayed in reading this particular chapter, till this particular morning.
She is referring to a story that her dear husband Keith left on her voicemail. Again, I'll quote:
"The parched land he leases in South Texas had received a rare downpour, and with great delight he watched a precious, wobbly-legged fawn with big brown eyes and oversized ears get mud on its hooves for the very first time. He said it jumped in the air, twirled around, and bucked like a miniature bronco until it shook every last bit of mud off its feet. I was completely grown before I realized that the mud I got on my feet from ditch-dwelling didn't belong there."
She goes on to pray for her readers:
"May your eyes be open to snares your enemy sets in your path and, should you tumble in the ditch, may your troubled heart be disallowed to condemn you. Jump in the air, twirl around, and buck like a bronco with repentance before your God until not a single speck of mud is left on your feet. Let God wash them in the water of His Word and plant them back on your path. When we feel heavy-laden in our journeys, may we check first to see if it's the burden of a swollen ego or the load of taking on a role that only belongs to God. May we lay down what has no place in our packs and run with the wind."
And so, fellow pilgrims, I'm just letting y'all know that by and because of God's grace, I am shaking it off. That much guilt and self condemnation is symptomatic of spiritual pride anyway. (But that's another blog post, no doubt...) I'm kicking my heels up, and the muck is a flying. And on we go, on this pilgrim pathway, headed toward the loving, outstretched arms of the One who knew all about my sin in advance, and yet chose to love and die for me anyway. I can't wait to see Him!